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Be too smart for the real estate cons

By Hustle Team | May 6th 2020

While this may not be a bad time to invest in property thanks to falling prices, we are hyper aware of the news stories in recent past of people getting conned out of their hard earned money because of unscrupulous real estate dealers. We look at the steps you need to take to ensure you aren’t swindled after sinking your money in real estate.  

1. Get appraised

When looking to buy a house, start by going to a bank to get an appraisal. This will tell you what you can afford. They will look at your earnings and advise you on how much mortgage you can get.

2. Read the fine print

Before you sign on the dotted line, understand the payment modality and involve a lawyer. Get the documentation that you require and really study it. You need documents from the mortgage company, legal documents, sale agreement, lease agreement etc. Understand them and consult legal guidance if need be to understand what you are buying. I meet many people who tell me “I am buying this house” and when I ask them how much it is, they are quick to tell me the cost but when I ask about the payment plans, they have no idea.

3. Go view

You must visit the site before you commit to buying the property. Whether you are buying it off-plan or buying a house under construction, or a ready one, you need to see it. This is before you make any payment. If someone is asking you to pay an amount to go and see a house, that should be the number one red flag. You can even go to the site without the seller, because if the seller is dishonest, you may just uncover some lies on site.

4. Do your homework

Due diligence is getting your documents looked at by professionals. You must get a lawyer to do a search, to ensure the property is free from any encumbrances. That means it was not built on a road reserve, it is not grabbed, and the owners have paid any dues charged – you can trace the title deed back to the very first owner.

5. Check out the developer

Check out your seller. If it is a developer, have they done any existing developments? If they have not, do they have all the approvals required?

After double-checking that the developer has all the approvals required, check the sewer details. Who is handling it? Where is my water coming from? After that, understand the financial model the developer is using. Is he building with your money? Because if he is building a whole estate with your money, that project will stall along the way.

Is he somebody with means? Is he getting a bank to finance the project? Where is he getting his money from? If you feel like, for example some windows are too small; get an architect who will tell you if that ventilation will work.

6. Get a valuer

You will need a valuer to value the property. If you are taking a mortgage, the bank’s valuer will also double-check that property. If you are not sure about the pricing, let a valuer come and double-value it for you. If it is land, you should get documents supporting where the beacons are held.

When buying off-plan, take caution because the documents for that are different. Understand the documentation. The payment models are different too so it is important to understand the payment model.

7. Get a great agent

A good agent is who you need when making a sizable investment. If anything, a good agent will often come highly recommended by previous investors. Still, you need to go to reputable agencies. Agents are now registered at the Ministry of Lands. Check if the agent has an office. Understand the agent. Double check the agent.

[Expert advice from Nancy Muthoni, CEO of First Avenue, a real estate consultancy firm and host of KTN’s Property Show]

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